AskDefine | Define triumvirate

Dictionary Definition

triumvirate n : a group of three men responsible for public administration or civil authority

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. A group or association of three.


Extensive Definition

The term triumvirate (from Latin, "of three men") is commonly used to describe a political regime dominated by three powerful individuals. The arrangement can be formal or informal, and though the three are usually equal on paper, in reality this is rarely the case. The term can also be used to describe a state with three different military leaders who all claim to be the sole leader of the state.

Roman Triumvirates

  • Twice in the late pre-Principate period of the Roman republic, political power shifted from the formal magistrates and senate to three ambitious men, who thus constituted a transitional government, known as triumviratus, each time only to break up again in civil war:
    • What modern scholars call the First Triumvirate was an informal political alliance of two rival generals, Julius Caesar and Pompey the Great representing the popular viz. senatorial party, with the extremely wealthy businessman Marcus Licinius Crassus. This fell apart after the death of Crassus, and the two other triumvirs fought a civil war, during which Pompey was killed and Caesar established his sole rule as perpetual dictator.
    • The Second Triumvirate was a formal governing body, consisting of Octavian and Mark Antony, the rivals for real power, and third wheel Marcus Aemilius Lepidus. Lepidus was sidelined early on in the triumvirate, and Antony was eliminated in a civil war, leaving Octavian as the sole leader.
  • In various municipalities, also under the Principate, the chief magistracy was a college of three, styled triumviri.

Modern Triumvirates

The title was revived a few times for (short-lived) three-headed political 'magistratures' in post-feudal times.
Ironically, when the French revolutionaries turned to several Roman Magistrature names for their new institutions, the three-headed collective Head of State was bizarrely named Consulat, a term in use for two-headed magistratures since Antiquity; furthermore it included a "First Consul" who was not an equal, but the de facto solo head of state and government- a tyrannical position Napoleon Bonaparte chose to convert openly into the First French Empire.
Prior to Napoleon and during the Terror Robespierre, Louis de Saint-Just, and Couthon, as members of the governing Committee of Public Safety, were purported by some to have formed an unofficial triumvirate. Although officially all members of the committee shared equal power the three men's friendship and close ideological base led their detractors to declaim them as 'triumvirs' which was used against them in the coup of 9 Thermidor

Modern Italy

In the Roman Republic (1849), the title of two sets of three joint chiefs of state in the year 1849:

Modern Greece

New World

In fiction

  • Commonwealth Triumvirate in Andromeda describes the leading arrangement of the All Systems Commonwealth. Controlled by 3 triumvirs, Tri-Jema, Tri-Lorn and Tri-Ortiz, who was replaced by her sister [etymologically absurd: a woman as 'man'], Tri-Camille
  • Triumvirate of the Robotech Masters in fictional Robotech series.
  • The Advocacy of the War of the Worlds TV series, three aliens who made up a triumvirate to guide and counsel the lower classes.
  • In the television series The Pretender, a shadowy council, called the Triumvirate, headquartered in Africa, were apparently the powers that be of the mysterious Centre and were concerned about a prophecy involving Jarod.
  • In the DC Universe, specifically in the series of Etrigan the Demon, the Triumvirate rule Hell.
  • In Orson Scott Card's Ender Series a triumvirate of the Strategos, the Polemarch, and the Hegemon are rulers to some extent.
  • In Alastair Reynolds's Revelation Space series the lighthugger Nostalgia for Infinity is commanded by a Triumvirate of Ultranauts in lieu of the ship's incapacitated Captain.
  • In the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter Series by Laurell K. Hamilton, Anita Blake forms a triumvirate between herself (a necromancer/animator), Jean-Claude (a master vampire) and Richard (a werewolf). There are three other triumvirates in the series. One in The Killing Dance consisting of Sabin, Cassandra and Dominic and the other in Burnt Offerings consisting of Padma, Thomas and Gideon.Anita also forms a triumvirate with Nathaniel and Damian.
  • In the video game Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams, the three Genma (demon) leaders, Claudius the Chancellor, Rosencrantz the Scientist and Ophelia the Priestess formed what was known as the Triumvirate. Throughout the game they worked together to resurrect the Genma God of Light, Fortinbras.
  • In The Star Wars Expanded Universe, there have been several notable Triumvirates, including the Sith Triumvirate of Darths Traya, Nihilus, and Sion, and the Imperial Triumvirate of Moff Disra, Major Tierce, and Flim.
  • In Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, the episode Codename Europa features the Triumvirate of Europe.
  • In the video game Tomb Raider and Tomb Raider: Anniversary Natla, Qualopec and Tihocan form the trumvirate of the Atlantis.
  • In Neil Gaiman's The Sandman series of graphic novels hell is ruled by a triumvirate of Lucifer, Beelzebub, and Azazel (although this appears to be a new occurrence as Dream seems shocked when he is informed of this.)
  • In the Halo novel series and video games, the Prophets of Truth, Mercy and Regret (ruling heads of the Covenant) are considered a triumvirate.

Sources and references

See also

External links

triumvirate in Bulgarian: Триумвират
triumvirate in Czech: Triumvirát
triumvirate in Danish: Triumvirat
triumvirate in German: Triumvirat
triumvirate in Modern Greek (1453-): Τριανδρία
triumvirate in Spanish: Triunvirato
triumvirate in Esperanto: Triumviraro
triumvirate in French: Triumvirat
triumvirate in Irish: Triúracht
triumvirate in Croatian: Trijumvirat
triumvirate in Italian: Triumvirato
triumvirate in Hebrew: טריאומווירט
triumvirate in Georgian: ტრიუმვირატი
triumvirate in Latin: Triumviratus
triumvirate in Lithuanian: Triumviratas
triumvirate in Hungarian: Triumvirátus
triumvirate in Dutch: Driemanschap
triumvirate in Japanese: 三頭政治
triumvirate in Norwegian: Triumvirat
triumvirate in Polish: Triumwirat
triumvirate in Portuguese: Triunvirato
triumvirate in Romanian: Triumvirat
triumvirate in Russian: Триумвират
triumvirate in Serbian: Тријумвират
triumvirate in Finnish: Triumviraatti
triumvirate in Swedish: Triumvirat
triumvirate in Slovak: Triumvirát
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